Rithika Merchant in The Morning News:
The Morning News: Some anthropologists theorize that early images of hybrid creatures, such as in cave paintings and Assyrian reliefs, depict shamans interacting with or transforming into spirit animals. Historically, hybrids do often represent deities and other religious figures—the elephant-headed Ganesha in Hinduism, Christianity’s winged angel Gabriel, for instance. To what extent does your art incorporate religious messaging?
Rithika Merchant: “Origin of Species” was in part inspired by the Shamanic concept of the spirit/power animal. I focused on the emotional complexes and relationships between people and animals using universally recognizable motifs. However, my work has less to do with religion and more to do with folklore and indigenous culture.
TMN: So what drew you to folklore?
RM: I first became interested in it after being introduced to Gond tribal art as a teenager. I was drawn to how each artist had their own signature decorative pattern that they used to fill their paintings. My interest in the visual representation of folklore began from looking at these drawings. Soon after that I began to seek out indigenous art and folktales from other cultures.